G.V. Wigram Correspondence

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Most of the correspondence is between G.V. Wigram and J.N. Darby. There is also correspondence from these two individuals to others.

This collection is an invaluable resource for anyone studying Wigram's life, in particular his relationship with John Nelson Darby. It contains much material on the early history of the Brethren movement, and is particularly useful for anyone wishing to understand the divisions among nineteenth century Brethren. It is an important resource for anyone studying the ideas of the Exclusive Brethren, or wanting to understand the roots of modern fundamentalist Christianity.

Administrative / Biographical History

G.V.Wigram was born 28th March 1805 in Walthamstow, Essex. He was the twentieth son of Sir Robert Wigram, a wealthy merchant and shipowner, and Eleanor Wigram (née Watts). Wigram was a close friend and associate of J.N. Darby and a key figure in the Plymouth Brethren movement. Two of his brothers also achieved fame: James Wigram became Vice Chancellor of the Old Court of Chancery, whilst Joseph Cotton Wigram became Bishop of Rochester.

Wigram enrolled in the army as a subaltern officer where he experienced a conversion in 1824 and then made contact with the Bourg-de-Four Assembly in Geneva, where he met Thomas Erskine. He left the army and enrolled at Queen's College, Oxford where he met Benjamin Willis Newton, James L. Harris, William Jarratt and others who were to become prominent figures in the Plymouth Brethren movement. Initially drawn to a career as a Church of England minister, his ambition was frustrated by Bishop Blomfield who refused to ordain him because of his extreme evangelical views. He met J.N. Darby in 1827 at Oxford and joined the Plymouth Brethren.

He spent time at Powerscourt in Cork (September 1830-March 1831) before leaving for Devon (invited by Newton) and purchasing a chapel in Raleigh Street, Plymouth, which came to be known as Providence Chapel. He used his wealth to publish religious writings, notably his concordances: The Englishman's Greek and English Concordance to the New Testament in 1839, and The Englishman's Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance of the Old Testament in 1867. These were very influential among Bible students with limited knowledge of Greek or Hebrew. He also compiled two prayer volumes; Hymns for the Poor of the Flock, 1837-38 and Hymns for the Little Flock in 1856. In 1831 he published A Protest against the National Establishment of England and in 1867 he edited The Herbraist's Vade Mecum with W. Chalk. Notes from his teachings were edited by Edward Dennett and published as Memorials of the Ministry of G.V. Wigram and Gleanings from the Teachings of G.V. Wigram. He later moved to London to continue his teachings.

He had several clashes with other figures in the movement, including Percy Frances Hall on the issue of the doctrine of the secret rapture. He stood by Darby in the 1860s on the question of the doctrine of the suffering of Christ which had produced dissension within the movement.

He married twice but both wives died before him, as did his daughter Fanny. His first wife (who he married in 1834) was Fanny Bligh, the daughter of Thomas Chebury Bligh. His second wife was Catherine Parnell (who he married in 1835). She was the daughter of William Parnell and aunt of the Irish politician Charles Stewart Parnell. He was grief stricken after the death of his daughter and spent the rest of his life making visits to the West Indies and New Zealand.

Wigram died at his house, 45 Cumberland Place, London on 1st January 1879.

Arrangement

The original order has been maintained. In general, items are arranged chronologically, although some are out of sequence, and there is a bundle of letters at the end of the collection, most of which are undated.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

David Wells.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands University Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Custodial History

The letters were originally in the possession of John Nelson Darby. He bequeathed these in his will to Mr. D.L. Higgins who passed on the letters to Mr. P.H.P. Wells, the father of David Wells.

Accruals

None expected.

Related Material

The John Rylands University Library also holds the papers of John Nelson Darby (GB 133 JND), which includes letters (and copies of letters) from Newton, along with notes and letters relating to the dispute between Darby and Newton.

See also the Additional Papers of John Nelson Darby .

Bibliography

Nigel Scotland, 'Wigram, Joseph Cotton (1798-1867)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004)

The Brethren Writer's Hall of Fame: G.V. Wigram

Johnathon D. Burnham, A Story of Conflict,(Carlisle: Paternoster Press, 2004)

Thomas Neatby, Gathering in the Name, (London: A. Holness, n.d.)

H.Y. Pickering, Chief Men among the Brethren: A Series of Brief Records of Brethren Beloved,(Glasgow: Pickering and Inglis, n.d)